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Cost overruns likely for Surrey Olympic centre: councillor

A Surrey councillor expressed concern that a $10.5 million Olympics facility could face cost overruns as the city struggles to meet a tight VANOC deadline.

Last spring, Surrey signed a $12.5 million agreement with Vancouver 2010 to become an official venue city for the Winter Games. Of that money, the city paid $2 million directly to VANOC for the right to use the Olympic logo.

The remaining money was slated for a major recreational centre in downtown Whalley that includes a 7,000-square-foot preparation centre for training Winter Games volunteers.

Surrey was supposed to deliver the facility to VANOC by early Feb., but extended the deadline by a month in a recent amendment to the deal, said long-time councillor and former mayor Bob Bose.

With construction still in the early stages though, he’s concerned the project might not be completed on time.

“It’s pretty tight,” he said. “There’s three months total to finish it. That seems to me always risky.”

The city doesn’t plan on finishing the recreation centre by late Feb., but expects to have the training facility portion completed on schedule, according to recent reports.

Bose said he thinks the likelihood of cost overruns “is pretty high” as Surrey rushes to finish the project. In addition to meeting VANOC requirements, builders will have to excavate ground and put mechanical systems in place for the entire recreation centre.

“Certainly it will be the more expensive part of the project,” he said.

Bose is also worried Surrey’s Olympic agreement contains a clause that exposes the city to legal action if the facility doesn't meet its late February deadline.

“VANOC can pursue the city through the courts for damages and the city has waived its right to defence,” he said. “[Surrey] got hog-swallowed by VANOC.”

Laurie Cavan, general manager of parks, recreation and culture for Surrey, said the training facility is currently on budget and on time.

“We knew going in that we have some tight timelines and we’ve been managing it appropriately,” she said. “It’s not a concern.”

Cavan said if the training facility isn’t completed on time, Surrey will look to lease existing city space to accommodate VANOC’s needs.

“If there were a delay – and were not expecting a delay – there’s no exposure for the city,” she said.

Geoff Dembicki is a staff reporter for the Hook.

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